A round-up of what’s happening in India’s Northeast.
Manipur: BJP talks with Churachandpur JAC fail to end impasse
The newly formed government in Manipur led by chief minister N. Biren Singh has held two rounds of talks with the joint action committee (JAC) over the ‘anti-tribal’ bills in Churachandpur since April 7. However, no solution has been found yet.
Since September 2015, the JAC has been spearheading a protest in Churachandpur following the death of nine people allegedly killed in police firing. The nine were a part of a violent protest against the state government’s decision to pass three controversial bills.
Many in the town and the adjoining hill areas of the state felt the three bills – the Protection of Manipur People’s Bill 2015, the Manipur Land Reforms and Land Revenue (7th Amendment) Bill, and the Manipur Shops and Establishment (2nd Amendment) Bill, 2015 – would compromise their identity and the right over their land. Barring one, the bodies of the dead have been kept in the district hospital morgue by the JAC as a mark of protest.
In the April 7 meeting chaired by the chief minister in Imphal, the JAC presented a charter of demands to the government, including “constitutional safeguard of the tribal territory, restoration of the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960, to its original status and justices for the martyrs and the injured.”
According to local reports, Singh urged the members of the JAC members – led by its chief convener H. Manchinkhup – “to let the families of the victims perform the last rites considering the trauma being suffered by them.”
According to a government press note, he said, “There is no country/state or even a family without any problem. Any crisis or any problem can be resolved through a series of meetings.” He also reiterated that “Manipur is made up of hills and valley, and without the hills and tribals, there is no Manipur.”
Though the government held another round of talks with the JAC on April 10 in Imphal, it failed to break the deadlock. According to local reports, on April 12 the JAC decided to adjourn the talks with the state government for the now and resolved to send its representatives to New Delhi “at the earliest” to “campaign for the tribal people’s cause”.
Sikkim: New political party questions “old laws” that gives the Bhutia-Lepcha community more prominence over others
Sikkim recently saw the formation of a new political party, the Sikkim Republican Party (SRP), hinged on the promise to “change the old laws” tilted towards the Bhutia-Lepcha (B-L) community and “give justice” to all the communities living in the state.
Though the B-L community comprises only 18% of the state’s population, it has 12 reserved seats in the 32-member assembly. Two seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes. As per the latest census report, people of Nepali origin form a majority of the state.
Formed by the former Sikkim Gorkha Jagran Sangh president K.B. Rai on February 27, SRP promised that “the first thing we will do [after coming to power] is to call for an assembly session to dump the old ‘unjust’ laws and we will pass a new law that will ensure that justice is given to all communities.”
Speaking to reporters in Gangtok after the launch of the party in February, Rai said, “As far as seat reservation goes, we will ensure that it is based on population. It is not fair that the B-Ls, who constitute 18% of the population, have 12 seats reserved for them but Limboo-Tamangs, who form 15% of the population, should get only five seats. B-L seats will be reserved constitutionally on the basis of population.”
Stating that “old laws which were made during the time of the Namgyal dynasty were discriminatory and unjust,” Rai said, “These laws no longer reflect modern democracy. There is no real democracy in Sikkim.” He called the state chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling an “actor who has no idea what real democracy is and one who has deprived the majority community of its rights.”
Political observers in the state are looking at the party as a challenge to Chamling’s Sikkim Democratic Front, which has been ruling the state since 1994.
The challenge posed by the party to the B-L community has also led to a lot of uneasiness among several people. However, on March 1, as many as 11 organisations of B-L communities issued a joint statement appealing the public to maintain restraint.
“We appeal and urge our community members that there is no reason to panic with the rude lambasting of the new political party against Sikkimese people. We call our community members to restore back peace and security,” said the organisations. They pointed out that sufficient protection is provided by the Sikkimese of Bhutia, Lepcha and Nepali origin under Article 371F of the Indian constitution.
According to local reports, the meeting “urged the authorities in New Delhi not to remain a mute spectators and act on such ruthless approaches of anti-Sikkimese elements.” The organisations also “called upon the government and members of the civil society to come forward and condemn SRP activities.”
Manipur: BJP starts anti-corruption cell; receives “400 complaints” in ten days
In an attempt to instill “good governance” in Manipur, the BJP-led coalition government in the state started an anti-corruption cell with a dedicated mobile number on March 25. According to local reports, the cell, manned by two officers within the chief minister’s office in Imphal, received a whopping “400 complaints” in just ten days.
Addressing a gathering at the 37th anniversary of the BJP at the party office in Imphal on April 6, chief minister N. Biren Singh said, “The cell has so far received about 400 complaints. The complaints are being closely monitored.” He said, “I have also asked all police stations and the departments to take necessary action so that investigations can be initiated from the information [mentioned in the complaints].”
The decision to start the cell was taken at the government’s first cabinet meeting held on March 24. A civil servant and a police officer were appointed to look into the public complaints.
“The general public shall be encouraged to capture the video/audio of any incident of corruption in public service and send [it] through Whatsapp,” a press statement issued by the state information and public relations department said.
Explaining the flow of work at the cell, it said the two officials would forward the complaint to the chief minister’s secretary, who, in turn, would bring it to the chief minister’s notice. The identity of the complainant would be kept confidential, it said, adding, “Each complaint will be screened in meetings held on the first and 16th of every month and if the days happen to fall on a holiday, it will be held on the next working day.”
Two Nagas conferred Shaurya Chakra; army officer from Arunachal awarded Ati Vishisht Seva Medal
While two people from Nagaland – Atu Zumvu, sub divisional police officer in Kohima, and captain Elisen Y. Jami of the 12 Parachute Regiment (Special Forces) – were conferred the prestigious Shaurya Chakra by president Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on April 7, major general Jarken Gamlin from Arunchal Pradesh was awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal.
Police official Atu Zumvu was awarded the third highest peacetime gallantry award for displaying exemplary courage and commitment to duty by apprehending three militants of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland in January 2015. The militants were reportedly responsible for killing 81 people on December 23, 2014, in neighbouring Assam. Besides, he also nabbed two cadres of the armed group Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland for the abduction of two truck drivers from Manipur in 2015 in a highly risky operation.
The president honoured Jami of the Indian army for carrying out special operation in the jungles adjoining Aghunato village in Zunheboto in 2015.
Gamlin, presently posted as GOC of the Kilo Force in Jammu and Kashmir, and a Sena Medal awardee, is reportedly the first general from the frontier state to have reached this rank in the army.
Mizoram: Popular musician Michael Sailo dies in road accident
Michael M. Sailo, one of the most popular young musicians from Mizoram, died in a road accident on the night of April 7. He is survived by wife Spi Bawitlung and two kids. His wife is also a popular artist in Mizoram.
A rapper, songwriter and composer, Sailo – also known as Aceman – was a member of the state’s top rock band Scavenger Project. A blend of electro progressive rock with hip hop and metal, the music of the band was extremely popular for its soulful lyrics.
According to news reports from Aizawl, Sailo died due to head injuries suffered in a two-wheeler accident around 11:45 p.m. on April 7. As the news spread, his fans across the Northeast took to social media to express their grief and offer condolences to his family.